For a lot of actors, being part of a superhero movie is their dream come true. Not only do you often get paid a lot of money (especially after the first film is a success), but you get to be part of something that very often becomes a beloved part of people’s lives. There is always the danger of being “typecast” in the role, but in the grand scheme of things, having a role that transcends time is something that most actors will gladly accept, even if the typecasting issue occasionally irritates them. Even Leonard Nimoy ultimately came around to the fact that everyone thinking of him as Spock was generally a good thing!
However, for some actors, that dream turns into a bit of a nightmare and they are forced to quit major roles in superhero movies, often not of their own volition. Some of them luckily got to return to the role later on, but most of them watched as other actors became famous in the roles that they once had. Here, then, are 15 actors who were forced to quit superhero movies.
15. DOUGRAY SCOTT IN WOLVERINE
The most famous example of an actor missing out on the role of a lifetime simply has to be Dougray Scott, who beat out a variety of actors for the hotly anticipated role of Wolverine in 2000’s X-Men. Filmmaker Bryan Singer was looking to cast an up and coming actor in the role rather than a “name,” but Scott was a rare example of both of those attributes. He was not yet a household name, but he was getting roles in lots of big films when he was cast as Wolverine.
Sadly, one of those roles, the villain in Mission Impossible 2, led to him having to quit X-Men, as filming on the Tom Cruise/John Woo film went overtime, causing it to conflict with the shooting schedule for X-Men. Scott’s loss was Hugh Jackman’s gain and the latter star went on to play the role in nine movies!
14. CHRISTOPHER REEVE IN SUPERGIRL
When Supergirl came out, fans were very disappointed when the film, which introduced Superman’s cousin, Supergirl, to the world, did not include an appearance by the Man of Steel himself. As it turned out, there originally was an entire scene in the movie where Superman would greet his cousin, do some super-tricks with her (flying in the air together) before magically being written out of the film to allow Supergirl to handle the rest of the film by herself.
Ultimately, though, despite initially agreeing to the film, Superman star Christopher Reeve backed out, citing “personal reasons.” Supergirl ended up not being much of a hit. Reeve’s presence really would have helped. Instead, only Marc McClure’s Jimmy Olsen ended up being the connecting point between Supergirl and the Reeve Superman films.
13. SEAN YOUNG IN BATMAN
Few lost opportunities were quite as literally painful as Sean Young’s departure from Batman. Young, hot off of her appearance in the surprise hit thriller, No Way Out, Young was cast as Vicki Vale, Batman’s love interest in the film. Sadly, during an action sequence where Vicki and Bruce Wayne went horseback riding together, Young fell from the horse and broke her arm.
Young had more bad comic luck when she was fired from the Dick Tracy movie a year later, allegedly because star/director Warren Beatty wanted a more “maternal” actress for his love interest, Tess Trueheart (the late, great Glenne Headly got the role). Young claimed, however, that it was because she turned down Beatty’s sexual advances. Young’s career never quite recovered from losing out on these two major films.
12. ANNETTE BENING IN BATMAN RETURNS
Hot off of her iconic role in the 1990 film, The Grifters (for which she netted an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress), Annette Bening nabbed the hotly-coveted role of Catwoman in Batman Returns, the highly-anticipated sequel to Batman. However, when production was just starting, Bening discovered that she was pregnant and that was not going to work for a character who had to wear skintight leather and do action sequences throughout most of the film.
Sean Young infamously made up her own Catwoman costume to try to convince director Tim Burton and actor Michael Keaton to cast her, but they ultimately went with Michelle Pfeiffer (who they might have cast earlier but they were uneasy with Pfeiffer working with her ex-boyfriend, Keaton). Pfeiffer ended up tripling Bening’s salary in the role.
11. SAMUEL L. JACKSON IN THOR
While nowadays, Samuel L. Jackson is synonymous with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there was a moment when his future in the franchise was very much in jeopardy. It all happened after he filmed his famous cameos as Nick Fury in all of the early Marvel Studios films, where he set up the introduction of the “Avengers Initiative.” Marvel planned on Jackson playing Fury in as many movies as they could get him into, but Jackson, naturally, saw that blatant interest as strong leverage for contract negotiations.
They eventually agreed to a nine-picture contract, but things were so tense early on that Jackson tried to demonstrate how willing he was to walk away from the role by quitting Thor. Marvel had to scramble to replace Jackson in the movie with Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. The new deal ended up allowing Jackson to get in a cameo appearance in the film.
10. BENJAMIN WALKER IN X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
In the tiered system of acting fame, doing theater on Broadway tends to fall pretty low on the list. Actors who are famous for their roles in musicals often end up playing fifth leads on sitcoms or TV dramas and they’re glad to have the roles. That’s what made Benjamin Walker’s decision regarding X-Men: First Class so shocking.
Walker had starred in the acclaimed Off-Broadway musical, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (a Michael Friedman-penned musical that, like Hamilton, took a modern look at an American political icon) in 2009, but the young actor’s career began to pick up outside of theater and he was cast as Beast in X-Men: First Class. Then, however, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson surprisingly got a chance to be on Broadway. Walker quit X-Men to do the musical. Sadly, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson flopped on Broadway. Walker bounced right back, though, with the title role in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
9. MARLON BRANDO IN SUPERMAN II
Superman producers, Ilya and Alexander Salkind, came up with a sketchy deal with their 1973 and 1974 hit films, The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. They filmed both movies at the same time and then paid everyone involved a salary for a single film. So, for the price of one film, they got to make two films.
They used this approach on Superman and Superman II, as well. This is why they were willing to meet Marlon Brando’s high salary demands for him to appear as Jor-El in the films. However, Brando sued the Salkinds over this business practice and he won. Brando knew that this meant they would probably cut him from Superman II (and they did), but at least he helped win the right that actors (and other film crew) are now paid for the extra films if directors film more than one film at once.
8. DEMI MOORE IN SUPERGIRL
Famously, 1980s romantic comedies have aged terribly, as things that were amusing to audiences at the time are now seen as highly problematic to modern audiences (like Robert Carradine’s character in Revenge of the Nerds pretending to be a cheerleader’s boyfriend to hook up with her). However, 1984’s Blame it on Rio was even seen as disturbing back then, which shows you how bad it was.
It starred Michael Caine as a man who goes to Rio with his best friend and their respective teenage daughters. Caine is then seduced by the 17-year-old daughter of his friend. It did not go over well at the time and has aged even worse. Demi Moore played Caine’s daughter in the movie. She was cast as Lucy Lane in Supergirl before bowing out of the movie to do Blame it on Rio instead.
7. KEENAN WYNN IN SUPERMAN
One of the most celebrated character actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood was Keenan Wynn, whose expressive face saw him continue to find roles even as he got longer in the tooth as an actor. He had just recently had a great turn in Robert Atlman’s Nashville when he was cast as Perry White in Superman. Wynn’s reasons for departing the project are particularly sad.
Soon after the film moved production to England, Wynn suffered a major heart attack. He survived (and would live another ten years) but had to be replaced in the film very quickly. Jackie Cooper got the role of Perry White mostly because he had a passport and was able to fly to England on little notice. Cooper went on to play the role in all four Christopher Reeve Superman films.
6. HUGH LAURIE IN SUPERMAN RETURNS
The role of Perry White was once again at issue in Bryan Singer’s sequel to the Christopher Reeve Superman films, Superman Returns. Singer followed the script of the original Superman film by casting a relatively unknown actor, Brandon Routh, in the lead role. However, Singer mostly filled out the rest of the film with actors that Singer had worked with on other projects. Kevin Spacey, the star of Singer’s first hit film, The Usual Suspects, was cast as Lex Luthor. James Marsden, Cyclops from Singer’s X-Men films, was cast as Lois Lane’s boyfriend.
For Perry White, Singer went with Hugh Laurie, who was starring in the hit TV series, House M.D., which was produced by Singer. Ultimately, though, Laurie’s schedule could not hold up with the film and the TV series, so Laurie had to bow out. Frank Langella was brought in and all of Laurie’s scenes were re-shot.
5. STUART TOWNSEND IN THOR
Stuart Townsend must have nightmares about swords. Townsend was famously cast as the sword-wielding Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, right before the movie was to begin filming, Jackson determined that Townsend was not right for the role and let him go, replacing him with Viggo Mortensen. Jackson later said that he felt that Aragorn needed to appear older and Townsend was 14 years younger than Mortensen.
Years later, Townsend was cast as the swashbuckling, sword-carrying Fandral in Thor. After filming began, Townsend quit the project over creative differences. Josh Dallas took over the role. Dallas, himself, was then replaced in the role for the next Thor film, due to scheduling conflicts with Dallas’ TV series, Once Upon a Time. Dallas was replaced by Zachary Levi.
4. JAMES PUREFOY IN V FOR VENDETTA
An interesting aspect of superhero movies is that often, the actors spend a lot of time being covered up by a mask. In the case of V for Vendetta, this allowed the filmmakers to do one of the rare examples of replacing an actor in a movie without, you know, actually replacing him in the movie! James Purefoy was cast as V in the film based on the Alan Moore/David Lloyd comic book series about an anarchist superhero trying to destabilize a fascist British government in the future.
V wears a Guy Fawkes mask and a cloak throughout most of the film, so when James Purefoy left the project over creative differences after a bunch of scenes had already been filmed, Hugo Weaving was able to seamlessly take over and they simply had Weaving dub over Purefoy’s lines. So Purefoy remains in the movie in a number of early sequences.
3. THOMAS KRETSCHMANN IN HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY
A similar situation to the Purefoy/Weaving situation occurred with Thomas Kretschmann in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Kretschmann provided the voice for Johann Strauss, a German psychic whose ectoplasm is contained within a special suit. However, after adding special effects noises for the suit, director Guillermo del Toro replaced Krestchmann with Seth McFarlane, famed creator of Family Guy (who does the voices of Peter, Brian and Stewie on that show).
Guillermo del Toro explained, ” The problem with the casting of Thomas was that his voice – through no fault of his own – was in the EXACT range as the gas/mechanical sound FX of Johann and came out monotone no matter what performance and direction we tried. Seth is my decision 100% as I find his versatility amazing. He brings life and excitement to the character.”
2. KODI SMIT-MCPHEE IN X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
As we saw earlier, a delay in filming schedules led to Dougray Scott being unable to play Wolverine in the original X-Men film. Incidentally, rumors over the years have suggested that the filming was delayed because Scott injured himself. That isn’t the case. He had only a minor injury that did not delay filming. The same thing led to a young actor being unable to play young Wolverine in a later film!
Young Kodi Smit-McPhee was cast as the young version of Logan in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but then the filming was pushed back a month and Smit-McPhee had to leave the film for a more significant role as the co-lead (with Viggo Mortensen as his father) in the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Smit-McPhee later returned to the X-Men universe to play Nightcrawler in X-Men: Apocalypse and the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
1. ED SKREIN IN HELLBOY
As you have seen, actors typically drop out of film productions for two major reasons. One is scheduling conflicts with another project and the other is creative conflicts between the actor and the filmmakers. This is what makes Ed Skrein’s departure from the upcoming Hellboy reboot so fascinating.
Skrein, who played the villainous Ajax in 2016’s Deadpool, was cast as Ben Daimio in the upcoming Hellboy film. Daimio, in the comic books, is a Japanese-American character. Skrein is not Asian. There was controversy over the casting and Skrein ultimately decided to back out of the project so that an Asian actor could be cast instead. It is rare to see an actor leave a major film project over a simple matter of artistic integrity.
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